In this article, when hand-quilting is mentioned, I’m talking specifically about big-stitch hand-quilting with size 8 or 12 weight thread.
When I first started hand-quilting I just used whatever needle I could find. Then, I decided I should probably find one that I really like using, and turned to my good friend Google. There’s lots of information out on the web about which hand quilting needles are best. I’m not one to take someone else’s word for it, so I set out to try the 3 most recommended ones – milliner, sashiko, and embroidery. My goal was to decide for myself and my style which one I liked best. And of course, tell you all about it.
This is my favorite needle for hand-quilting. Hands down. I love the length, it isn’t too long but also not too short. The small needle eye means that it creates smaller holes through your fabric, and leads to less bearding. Bearding refers to when you end up with a bit of your batting poking up on the front of your quilt. When your needle eye is bigger, there’s a better chance it can drag some of the batting along with it to the surface when you’re pulling the needle through. Milliners needles glide easily through multiple layers and are rigid enough that they don’t bend easily (one of my biggest pet peeves).
A couple things you need to know about Milliners though before you all rush out to buy them. The eye of the needle is SMALL. I listed this as a positive above, and it is, but also be aware that threading size 8 thread through the eye can prove challenging. You might need a really good needle threader to assist you. I can thread the 12 weight easily, but even the 8 weight is challenging for me. That said, they’re still the needle I reach for over and over again.
If there was a prize for second place, embroidery needles would be taking home silver. I found the embroidery needles a bit too thick for my tastes, but if you struggle with threading a milliner needle, then this is a good choice for you. The bigger eye is easy to thread, and the needle glides through all the layers easily.
Oh boy, I didn’t like these needles at all for hand quilting a quilt. Sashiko needles are super long, so you can load a ton of stiches onto them, but they were too long for my tastes. They were also very rigid and thick, so I found them difficult to use and hard to pull through all the quilt layers.
I hope this helps! If you have a favorite hand-quilting needle that I haven’t mentioned, let me know in the comments!